Tens of thousands of people marched through Glasgow on Saturday as part of a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice that saw similar rallies held in cities around the world, including in Canada.
Wet, windy weather prevailed throughout the day in Glasgow but organizers estimated that 100,000 people marched and the streets were lined with colourful banners, flags and brass bands.
“We need to show up to show what we’re fighting for,” said Severin Berger, a 21-year-old software developer from Vienna who joined the Glasgow march. “We need to show world leaders that we demand more. We demand true change of our current system. Nothing they have ever agreed on has really changed anything.”
The global demonstrations happened at the midpoint of the COP26 climate summit, a United Nations conference that is under way at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus. Delegates are trying to get more than 190 countries to commit to concrete plans that will meet net-zero carbon emissions targets by 2050 and keep the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that he was “cautiously optimistic” that agreements will be reached by the time the conference ends on Friday. Mr. Johnson cited several commitments that have been made so far during the conference, including new pledges to stop deforestation, reduce coal use and end public financing of foreign fossil fuel projects.
However, environment campaigners said the pledges still don’t go far enough. “This first week has been stuffed with announcements and deals – on methane, on coal, on forests, on finance,” said Eddy Pérez of the Climate Action Network Canada. “Some have been promising, some greenwashed, but all are still piecemeal. Even with the updated climate pledges submitted to the UN as of Tuesday, the world is still on track for a 13.7-per-cent increase in temperature emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 – far from the 45-per-cent decrease needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.”
Canada was among 20 countries that pledged this week to end public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of next year. Mr. Pérez said the federal government must do more. “Canada must commit to ending domestic fossil fuels subsidies and provide additional finance to respond to losses and damages if it wishes to be seen as a credible partner,” he said.
The summit’s daily bustle of side events on Saturday saw British actor Idris Elba bring his star power to the UN talks. He spoke about the importance of helping small farmers cope with global warming.
Mr. Elba, known for roles on the HBO series The Wire, BBC One’s Luther and this year’s film The Harder They Fall, attended with model and producer Sabrina Dhowre Elba, his wife. They took the stage Saturday in support of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Mr. Elba said he wanted to highlight the dangers of global food chains being disrupted as small farmers are hit by erratic seasonal rains, drought and other impacts of climate change.
“This conversation around food is something that needs to be really amplified, and one thing I’ve got is a big mouth,” Mr. Elba said, adding that 80 per cent of the food consumed worldwide is produced by small-scale farmers.
Speaking on the same panel, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate said global warming is already causing hunger for millions around the world, including in her country.
She said a shift from meat to plant-based diets could help prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year while allowing farmland currently used to grow animal feed to be used instead for food for humans.
A Democratic and Republican delegation of U.S. senators was scheduled to visit the summit on Saturday. Off-year Republican victories that have unsettled members of President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party gave the bipartisan visit significance.
During a youth rally in Glasgow on Friday, activist Greta Thunberg and others said the climate conference had turned into a public relations exercise. “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” Ms. Thunberg told thousands of young people who gathered in George Square. She said the conference was a “two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah.”
Saturday’s march in Glasgow consisted of a wide range of groups, including farmers, faith leaders, labour unions, Indigenous peoples, wildlife groups and social justice organizations. Roughly 200 similar marches and rallies were set to take place in 20 countries. In Canada, rallies had been planned in several cities, including Toronto, Victoria and Montreal.
“More than anything, seeing the thousands upon thousands of people in the streets demonstrates where the true power is,” said Malaika Collette, an 18-year old student from Peterborough, Ont., who joined the Glasgow march.
“The number of people in the streets demonstrates how angry people are with the current action that’s being taken. It shows how many people are desperate for real action and livable future.”
With a report from The Associated Press
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